Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

are those who have suffered most for others. Our cherished literature is an epic paean of the balm of love poured eternally and without stint into the wounds of men. Each of us carries in our heart the medallion picture of a Christ, or of a Watt Tyler, or of a Nathan Hale, or of a Gandhi or of a Jane Addams, whom we would like to emulate in helpful abnegation for the good of others. Yet our uncorrelated, unorganized impulses of generosity and kindliness are too feeble and too fickle to rely upon any impulsive zeal to righteousness to carry out the guaranties we have just discussed as necessary for a humanely dominated social organism.

The mechanism of society is so intricate, the marshaled hosts of warriors on the battle field of competition so far-flung, the concentration upon the glittering material rewards so fixed, that we cannot rely upon haphazard promptings of individuals to good deeds to guarantee to our spiritual capacity for love that suffering will be eased, that injustice will be fought, that human beings will be reconstructed, and that misery will be prevented, without intelligent, devoted organization. In a world where all the other departments of life are highly organized in order to get the greatest good for the greatest number, it is necessary that the brotherly kindliness of men should be regimented and marshaled into an organization as mighty in its mechanism, as clearly intelligent in its direction, as powerful in its driving genius, as any other great organism of modern life, so that all who are in need may be helped in useful and comprehensive ways.

Here comes social work with its second major purpose: to guarantee that the average person will have a chance to express his instincts for helpfulness and human kindliness in ways that will produce the greatest usefulness from them. Hospitals, health centers, social settlements, children's societies, family welfare societies, protective agencies, probation offices, visiting nurse organizations, and all the other philanthropic movements, knit into a vast system of cooperation, play the part of middlemen in conveying this spirit of generosity and of service, from the thousands who reach out to express it, to the thousands who are in need of sympathetic help and friendliness. Without organized social work, many who wish to help wisely could not do it, because they would not know how, or would not have time; and many who are in dire need would be compelled to go without, because they would not know where, in a mass of humanity, to find the friendly individuals willing and capable of helping.

This spiritual capacity of man finds a second expression in his passion for justice. In his long upward climb from the jungle, through savagery and barbarism into civilization, he has always sought to curb ruthless power, greed, cruelty, self-centered domination, and unfair dealings, and to replace them with rules and regulations of conduct in the relations of man to man that would insure fairness and equity to the largest number. All down the long road of history the flaming fagots lighted by tyranny, bigotry, ignorance, and hate have tortured the world's great martyrs, who, with their lives, have broken the

strangle hold of oppression. The fields of the world have run red with the blood of countless thousands who, with their eyes fixed on the blue-white flame of justice, died in order to topple the conquerors, the kings, the noblemen, the theocracies, and the profiteers that denied to common men the common rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We in America may well be proud of the part we have played in this eternal ever resurgent crusade for justice. While the imagination of the Old World has always been captured by the man on horseback, the crown, and the jeweled hand that wields the scepter, the people of this Republic and of the great Dominion have never responded to the conqueror's trumpet, have stood foursquare for human rights, and have reserved their plaudits for the high leadership of service.

And yet injustice persists. Each new plane of civilization breeds it again. Each new mechanism of society, each new form of social cohesion, must reinterpret and re-enact the rules of conduct that guarantee the rights of men. The defense of justice and the forward push of its hope into new realms of life is again the task of all the people of all the world, working through every instrument they have. But social work, dealing so much with the poor, the unfortunate, the downtrodden, and the maladjusted, sees injustice at work in specific cases in a way that no other calling sees. It offers to its clients at least a guaranty that someone in the world will be alert to discover when people break the established canons of justice in dealing with them, and to work for a fair and proper adjustment. It offers a second guaranty to humanity as a whole, that there will be a group of people, close to the ragged edge of things, who, through observation and the massing of facts, will be prepared to propose to legislatures and the people intelligent changes that will push their aspirations for fair play in the dealings of man with man a little nearer the perfection which we always seek and never find.

Social work makes another important contribution to our spiritual life. While we accept the ascendancy of the strong and offer glittering rewards to ability and capacity, we recognize that there are weak as well as strong, that there are levels of ability grading from the very able down to the completely incompetent. The steady encroachment of idealism, the steady infiltration of warm, pulsating love and of cold, intelligent justice is building a canon in American life that the gifts of strength and ability are not for selfish aggrandisement, but to be used for service in our communal life. We are insisting that, when the strong have won their selfish rewards, the pomp and power of place and goods shall not be used exclusively for luxurious gratification, but more and more for the common good. A precept is dawning, very largely as a result of social work, that there shall be withheld from the strong the climax to their careers-the final reward of a people's love and true affection-until they turn their wealth and their ability into the channels of service.

One of the greatest, the most useful, and most practical, channels of service is offered by organized social work. We have taken the service laws of the

prophets, the social gospel of the Nazarene, removed them from the wars of theology, broken their restrictive binders of self-centeredness, and harnessed their dynamic energies to the vehicles of economic, political, and scientific truths for the amelioration and advance of humanity. No warfare between fundamentalism and modernism in our ranks restricts the free expression of spiritual power in action for service. On the American continent there is no acceptance of the divine rights of rulers, but the dynamo of social work drives ahead the gospel of a divine obligation to active service, thereby helping man to tower up to God and to share with him the Godlike power of salvation and of resurrection. I believe it is not too much to say that if organized social work did not exist, this crowning expression of group spiritual life on the continent of America would hardly be possible. And if it were not possible, the whole structure of American society would rot at the heart and, sooner or later, topple and fall. Nor is it too much to say that if men and women, freed from the oldtime burdens of heavy labor, and with leisure on their hands, were compelled to express their spiritual yearnings for helpfulness, individually and separately, without the use of the organized instruments we offer them, their efforts would either be dissipated into uselessness, or their ignorance and uncurbed sentimentality would be equally destructive to the commonwealth.

If these things are true, social work is an indispensable instrument for human relief and for human advance, without which a republican democracy would not come to its great fruition. It says to the person living in the state of democratic individualism that has evolved as the accepted order on the continent, Your life is full of untold hazards, many of which you cannot foresee and cannot surmount single-handed. We offer you guaranties that when the storm breaks, and the house of your affairs rocks and falls about you, a body of devoted, intelligent servants, backed sometimes by the state and sometimes by a host of generous citizens, will spring to your assistance, bringing goods, brains, labor, the methods of science, and the friendly love of pulsating hearts, all of which we place at your disposal, to shelter you so long as you shall need it, and to reconstruct your affairs so that you may presently be a free and independent citizen, sharing with us all the joys of productive work. It says to the commonwealth at large, Here are hazards which, with a little thought, a little labor, a little cooperation, a little modification of some minor plan, may be wiped out, and from which those who march this road tomorrow may not suffer. It says to the strong, happy, contented citizens, Here are tried and demonstrated channels flanked by ports of happy usefulness. Pour into these channels without stint a golden stream of brotherly love, and watch the tears of a distraught humanity melt into laughter as the victims of fate rise upon the flood and are steered into the ports of hope.

Yes, social work is necessary. It is a vital part of our scheme of things. It is a dignified, sanctified system, touched with a sacrificial grandeur. It is the patriotism of peace, as patriotic as the shouldering of a musket in the fanflare and panoply

of war. Those of us who practice it need bow to no one. Let us stand shoulder to shoulder, a militant host marshaled in friendly cooperation, proud of its intelligent service, jealous of its devoted spirit, and determined to fight for the honor of its name. We are part of the American philosophy. We are the vanguard of a great people's spirit of sanctified intelligent brotherhood. We are soldiers of the common good who have answered the call to the colors.

THE DYNAMICS OF SOCIAL WORK

Rev. Frank Nelson, Rector of Christ Church, Cincinnati

One hesitates, at such a time as this, to add another word to the very great address of your president. It is so full of wisdom, and truth, and vision that it seems to me in many ways a pity to take any of the impression of it from your minds. I beg you will not allow me to do so, but through whatever I may be given to say you shall read anew the words that he has spoken to you, that you may go forth from this meeting into the many other meetings that are to come, and then from those to your own work in the various communities, with a new pride that you have been called to social work, if that is your calling, and with a new reverence and respect for social work, if you are not a social worker, and with a new determination to give to it the best you have. For, as he has said truly, in social work today in our modern communities there is salvation; there is hope for men and women and children-not only the down-and-out, the poor and despised, the outcast and the weak, the feebleminded and delinquent, but for every man and woman of us. For we are bound up in the bundle of life together, and we must render service to our fellow-men and women who need that service, not only that we may save them from weakness and pain, but that together we may stand in self-respect before God, ourselves and the generations to come; that it may be known that here men not only live, but live together. The time has gone by when it was sufficient for a man to render to his fellow-man what personal service it was given him, in opportunity and means, to render. The problems of our modern complex life are too difficult for that, and it is a very remarkable testimony to the depth and wonder of man's deep and constructive love for man that he should have wrought out this great complex organization of social work; that he should have designed and achieved it, in the face of almost incalculable difficulties, in order that he might reach out into the needs that touch men today and bring to them service and love, and use it as an instrument of his great, eternal, constructive sense of obligation as a man to men. Only as we keep that clear and strong and alive in our hearts through all the methods of our work, through all the conferences of the coming days, through all the complex organization of social service, can it be true and worthy and achieve the end for which it was designed.

It is a wonderful thing, this social work, in changing the conditions that

surround the people of our time, in bringing hope and courage to individuals, in relieving pain and suffering in society, in eliminating the degrading influences of vice and shame. And it is a wonderful opportunity that is given to men and women today to find in social service a means of expressing the best that is in them by giving themselves to this great profession of human service. There have been great professions in the past. There is the great profession of the ministry, for which so many people think today the time has gone by, because they do not know its greatness and its glory and the wonders of its continuing service to mankind. There are the great professions of medicine, of the law, and of teaching. I cannot stop to speak in detail of each of these; but I want you to see that the things you seek in social work are the things that have kept these callings up. Men go into them because they are called to render human service, and not for gain, money, position, fame, or prestige. A man can only be truly a member of these great professions as his soul is purged and cleaned from anything in it which ministers to himself. And now comes this new profession of social service. It, too, is not a remunerative calling. Thank God the social workers are underpaid, by the standards of modern economic life. If ever social work comes to be commercialized so that it is financially profitable, then social work will enter upon its period of degradation. It must be maintained as a true profession into which one goes for what he can do for his fellow-men; which involves sacrifice, which enables him to use what God has given him in the ministry of human welfare in order that he may give something of what God has given him to the common possession of the race. And so I thank God that social work has come to be a true profession, and I ask every man and woman here ever to hold in deepest reverence this gift from God that has come in these great days.

one

And yet there have come great dangers through the organization of social service. There is first, the danger that comes because we have to have great institutions and organizations to carry on this work. That danger is that the old original sense of brotherliness, the personal service of a man to his fellowman, shall be lost sight of because we are dealing with groups and with conditions. We are coming to think-at least we are often acting as if we thoughtthat the man was made for the institution, and not the institution for the man. And I would have you hold to this fundamental vision of social work, when dealing with the technique that is necessary in all institutions, that the institution is made for the man, and that the value of the man is always greater than the value of the institution. Always the institution is here to serve the man. It is the man's servant, and not his master. To compel even the lowest of the children of men to conform to the standards of the institution rather than to make the institution serve the man's needs is to reverse all our standards of value. To make a man is the sole objective of all our organizations and institutions.

Another great danger is the de-personalizing of social work. It is a danger

« AnteriorContinuar »